Financial advice firms must do a better job carrying out due diligence on the products they recommend to their retail clients, according to a review published on Friday by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Although the study found some good practices, “many firms did not show consistently good practice across all products and services and there is room for further improvement,” the FCA says in a statement.
“Without undertaking proper due diligence, firms will find it difficult to judge whether solutions are suitable for their clients,” the FCA adds.
The FCA study looked at how firms selected products, funds, platforms and discretionary investment management services, and how they evaluated options for individual clients.
The review found that: “firms that got research and due diligence right had a good culture of challenge. Firms’ staff need to feel able to question the firm’s approach and there should be processes in place to allow for this. In firms where this culture is weak there could be a bias towards the status quo, with firms not questioning why they continued to recommend certain products and services.”
In addition, firms also need to ensure they are managing conflicts of interest between their clients and their own interests, the FCA says.
“Research and due diligence is one of the three pillars of getting advice right, which is why we have returned to this issue. Firms clearly want to get this right and all firms, regardless of size or type, can carry out good research and due diligence,” says Linda Woodall, director of life insurance and financial advice at the FCA. “However, there are still improvements firms need to make and we’d encourage all firms to look at our findings and ensure that they are challenging themselves to ensure they’re delivering quality due diligence for their clients.”
The FCA says that it intends to provide additional guidance to firms in this area, to help them raise their standards and adopt good practices. It will also be publishing a second consultation paper on the implementation of new European market reforms, which will include requirements related to research on products and services.